Rhode Island Ironman 70.3 2009 Race Report

    What a fun race and trip I had with family and friends to New England for Rhode Island Ironman 70.3! I can’t think of a better way to finish out my block of the three domestic Ironman 70.3 races within the last 5 week span. I finished Rhode Island Ironman 70.3 in 6th place in the professional field. I've been most happy about my consistency this season, with this race being my 5th straight top-10 finish in an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 event in the 2009 racing season.

 

     I was excited for the trip itself as I had never traveled to New England and was eager to see and race in a new part of the country. The experience was made even better by the fact that my parents met me in Rhode Island for the trip. I also had several friends and training buddies from Austin traveling to the race: Richie Cunningham, Michael Lovato, James Cotter, and Des Ficker all raced. For those who followed the race know that Michael and Richie battled it out for first and second place respectively in an exciting struggle through the run (separated by only about 15 seconds at the finish). Des also took second place in the women’s field. I am always happy to see my friends race and finish so well. I’m really proud of all of them.

 


Michael, Richie, and I get ready for a warm-up bike the day before the race

 

     I just arrived back in Austin for a brief ten day stopover before heading up to Northern Michigan for 5 ½ weeks of focused training for Ironman Wisconsin. These last three Ironman 70.3 races  (Kansas, Buffalo Springs, and Rhode Island) have been a lot of fun, but I’m ready to focus my training for the rest of the year back on the full-Ironman distance. I feel like my gains over the last couple months will translate over and give me a huge boost in my preparation for Ironman Wisconsin.

 

The Race

 

     I was really impressed with the race course put together by the event coordinators. There were several unique and enjoyable aspects of the race course and venue. I think this race was a very good addition to the Ironman series. The point-to-point and EXTREMELY early start time (male pros started at 6am) offer some logistical challenges and difficulties, but beyond that, I think it really is a top-notch race. Considering the urban nature of the bike course as we worked our way into downtown Providence and downtown run, I felt that the course was very safe and the traffic was under control (a commendable effort to the event organizers and Providence police….if you’ve ever seen the crazy nature of New England traffic and intersections then you’ll understand the difficulty this presents).

 

     For those unfamiliar with a “point-to-point” race, this means that the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run transitions are located in two different places. We swam in the Atlantic Ocean off the southernmost point of Rhode Island, got on our bikes at the beach, then biked 56 miles up the state, transitioned to the run on the grounds of the state capitol building in downtown Providence, and then ran throughout the downtown historic, commercial districts, as well as Brown University’s campus. It’s made for an exceptional race experience, but required logistical planning and patience in the days before the race and for any friends and family members to follow the race. My parents did a great job and actually were able to see me more in this race than many other races.


     We swam in a bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Of course there were rumors flying around about a link to a news story posted that a 15ft Great White Shark had been snagged by fisherman a mile away from the swim start only a couple weeks ago. Whether or not it was true, I have no idea, but you cannot help but be a little spooked by the thought. When the sight of the bottom gets replaced by the murky blackness of the ocean depths, my imagination was quick to let thoughts of Jaws creep into the back of my mind. If anything, I think it made me swim a little harder because I didn’t want to spend any more time in the water that I absolutely had to. I always think back to one of my favorite scenes in movie history, in Jaws, when Quint tells the story of the USS Indianapolis and he says, “you ever seen a shark’s eyes, Chief? They’ve got lifeless eyes; like a dolls’ eyes….”

 

     I'd swam at the race site on Friday and Saturday before the race and the water had been reasonably calm; however, a storm/squall blew through at around 3:30 am race morning and churned up the surf. It was super choppy, maybe the choppiest water I’ve raced in. I found out after the race that after the professionals had started, the water was so rough that the race director made the decision that for safety’s sake, the swim was optional for amateurs!!! Standing at the starting line, I kept thinking to myself the scene in a Seinfeld episode when George was recounting how he rescued the whale by pulling Kramer’s golf ball out of its blow-hole, by shouting, “the sea was angry that day, my friends!”
 

 
Pro men lined up for the running swim start. Check out the wind on the flags. I'm the one in the black wetsuit


     It was a beach start and the sea floor had a gradual drop-off, so it we had a running start into the surf for a good 40 yards or so. As the male pro field lined up behind a starting rope, the wind was so strong that the flags looked like they were starched in a horizontal position and the volunteers had a hard time keeping the line taught. I had really done my homework before this race and was determined to absolutely torture myself to stay with a swim group just a little faster than me. I was determined to have a break-through swim performance. I lined up next to a couple individuals I had targeted to stay on. When the gun went off, I ran right with them through the surf and was initially right on track. Then I got pounded by a breaker and completely lost the set of feet I had targeted to swim behind. I swam water-polo style for a few strokes to try to find the guys, but they had disappeared. I was then by myself for the rest of the swim….it seems I’ve been here before.

 


Running into the surf to start the race

The way out to the swim turn around was brutal. It was the kind of surf where you had to time your sighting to the crest of a swell or else when you looked for a buoy, all you saw was a wall of water in your face. It was like a dream after the turn-around to head into shore. I think I may have body-surfed the entire last 800 meters of the swim. It was actually fun then. I came out of the water and heard spectators yelling that I was 6 minutes down from the leaders, so it was in line with the +/- 5 min swim gap I’ve had in every Ironman 70.3 race this year. Nothing surprising there.

 

     I really enjoyed the bike course. The first 10 miles were along the coast, flat, and with a solid tail wind. Everyone was flying for the first section of the bike. My legs were feeling good, but it was hard to tell how well I was biking relative to others because there were no out-n-backs to gauge your position versus the other guys. Also the New England roads are very scenic, but also very winding so we couldn’t see far in front or behind us to gauge the competition. I passed my parents standing on the side of the road within the first 3 miles. They held up a sign that told me I was in 21st position. They drove on parallel highways to the course and at several points, took crossroads over to our route to watch us pass, cheer, and tell me my position. Once I knew my initial position, I could start counting people off as I passed.

 

     Pretty soon, I linked up with a Canadian pro who was pretty evenly matched on the bike and he and I biked together the rest of the way. We kept our legal distance, but it was nice to have a rabbit on some of the hills and sometimes I led the way for us. The course turned inland and that’s when the average speed dropped. The nice tailwind died and the flats gave way to a challenging, hilly, but fun middle section. By the time I passed my parents at their second cheering point, I had moved from 21st to 12th. We picked up a few stragglers who held on the back for a while, but we were able to drop most attempts to cling to us. Although it hurt as always on the bike, I really had a lot of fun on that course. I don’t always get done with a race and say that it was “fun” during the race, but I had a legitimately fun time. The last five miles or so of the bike were not so fun. As we came into Providence, the road surface became horribly torn up with cracks and potholes. We made about 25 turns in those last few miles, so you couldn’t ride fast and had to keep braking and accelerating. We crossed 4 different train tracks, all at odd angles to our path requiring some significant care to avoid wrecking. I guess that’s just part of having a bike course in a major US city. All of us dealt with the same roads on the way in. So other than the last few miles, I think it’s a wonderful bike course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo by Larry Rosa
  
   I came into transition with two other guys and we were somewhere around 7th, 8th, and 9th or 8th, 9th, and 10th. I could tell right away that my legs didn’t have quite the same snap as they did in the last two half-Ironmans I’d raced in the last few weeks. I didn’t run slow, but I didn’t have any punch. About a half-mile into the run, the course turns up a DOOOOOZIE of a hill which leads up to Brown’s campus. It was both a momentum and a quad wrecker. Everyone suffered on that hill. I’d say it was maybe the most difficult run-course hill that I’ve encountered on a race. Since it was two loops, we ran up the hill twice. I seemed to struggle more with running down it twice because it absolutely pounded my legs. Each time we ran down, I lost time to the guys around me. Up, not an issue, down was what hurt me, bad. The fun part about this race was how there were two groups battling on the run. Up front, Michael, Richie, and Cam Brown were locked in for the entire race. The 4th place finisher was between the two groups and then there was the group I was in with eventually 4-5 of us fighting for 5th-10th place. I can’t count how many position changes there were between us over the course. I made for a tough, but fun run.

               Andrew Hodges from Team Timex and I battle on the run

     Because there was always a guy right behind and right in front, my brain never went into the "dulldrums"mode. It was tough as always, but when I finished, I really felt that I had a fun time racing. The time gaps between the finishers were all very slight, signifying the great competition at this race. With the two groups were locked in so close, it shows how strong and mentally tough each of those guys are. I have the utmost respect for each of my competitors.

   

     I had a fun time after the race, hanging out with my parents, Richie, his girlfriend Melissa and her parents, and Michael. A very fun day.


Mom and I pose in front of the Rhode Island capitol building after the finish
 

     My parents and I took the day after the race as a vacation day and got to be tourists. We had an amazing sightseeing day on the East Coast. We drove from Providence up to Glouster, Mass to see the fishing village on the coast. We drove up further to the quaint coastal town of Rockport, Mass. There I had my first Lobster Roll, a New England favorite that, until this weekend, I had never heard of. From Rockport we drove to Salem, Mass to see if we could burn some witches or at least see some fun historical landmarks. Salem was a bit of a bust. It was a bit like Roswell for witchcraft. From there we drove to Lexington and then to Concord along the Minuteman National Historic Park to visit and learn about the opening battles of the American Revolution. My parents and I agreed those historic sights were our favorites.

 

Rockport, Mass


Memorial at Lexington battlefield


Dad and I stand at the left flank of the colonists' position at Lexington


Famous bridge at Concord battlefield. Inspired Emerson's poem where he coined the phrase "the shot heard round the world."

   
  All in all, a great experience; from spending time with my family and friends, to a great race. It’s time for some quality recovery for my body before I start my regiment to prepare for Ironman Wisconsin.

     
     I would like to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their belief in me and my racing as well as their support. I’d also like to thank Jack and Adam’s Bicycles for their endless assistance. I’d also like to thank Xterra Wetsuits, Advanced Rehabilitation, Hill Country Running Company, and Lewis Signs. I want to thank my parents for their unending support. Having them in on this trip to Rhode Island really made the trip very special. Without the support of my family and friends and sponsors, it would not be possible for me to continue my pursuit of racing; I am appreciative of their unending support and encouragement.

Pat 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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